Tough con­di­tions in camp

Central Leader - - NEWS - By MA­NAR AL-AN­SARI

A 19-year-old Kings­land res­i­dent has spent seven months vol­un­teer­ing in a Pales­tinian refugee camp.

Ella McCarthy was study­ing ma­rine bi­ol­ogy, French and Maori at the Univer­sity of Auck­land be­fore de­cid­ing she needed to es­cape her daily rou­tine.

She trav­elled around Europe and de­cided she wanted to spend a month vol­un­teer­ing.

A quick Google search led her to vol­un­teer work help­ing Ech­las Al-Azzeh, a 42-year-old woman with mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy liv­ing in al-Azza refugee camp in Beth­le­hem.

‘‘[The camp] is not an easy place to live. All the houses are re­ally close to­gether.

There’s no space for any­thing and there’s noise all the time. It’s re­ally dif­fer­ent from Auck­land,’’ Ella says.

‘‘When you’re there you just feel how stag­nant the whole thing [con­flict] is. It’s like noth­ing is mov­ing and it’s slowly get­ting worse. It’s so frus­trat­ing.’’

Her mother Leigh McCarthy has not seen Ella in more than a year but sup­ports her daugh­ter’s de­ci­sions.

‘‘She al­ways does a lot of work for dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions. She started vol­un­teer­ing at Green­peace when she was 12. ‘‘I’m in­cred­i­bly proud of her.’’ She wor­ried about Ella go­ing to Pales­tine but also re­alised any­where in the world could be dan­ger­ous. ‘‘You hear and you read things [about Pales­tine] but you don’t know what’s go­ing on un­til you’re there.

‘‘Ella’s there, she lives there ev­ery day and knows what’s ac­tu­ally go­ing on.’’

Ella has been help­ing Al-Azzeh get ex­tra in­come by sell­ing copies of a cal­en­dar she cre­ated to people back home in New Zealand.

Her fam­ily and the Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine group at the Univer­sity of Auck­land are help­ing dis­trib­ute it.

Al-Azzeh says she likes to make her cal­en­dars ed­u­ca­tional and cover a dif­fer­ent sub­ject ev­ery year.

‘‘The topic for this year was po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers,’’ she says.

She and her young carer are in Ger­many at­tend­ing a disability work­shop, af­ter which they will part ways.

‘‘We’ll pre­tend good­bye,’’ Ella says.

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Good friends: Ella McCarthy, 19, vol­un­teered to look af­ter Ech­las Al-Azzeh who lives in a refugee camp in Beth­le­hem, Pales­tine.

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